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Posts tagged with International Affairs

McDonald’s, Paraguay and Kansas

Have you seen that annoying McDonald’s commercial with the two young women in an upscale coffee house? If you haven’t, you should be rewarded for not watching television. One of the women reveals that McDonald’s now has upscale coffee like cappuccino, latte’s and such. They get all giddy over the prospect of swapping their air of pretension for their neighborhood McDonald’s presumably dressed in jeans and flip-flops.There are many people in Kansas who find this particularly annoying. Why? Well, as the two women ramble on one says: “And I don’t know where Paraguay is.” The other looks puzzled and replies: “Paraguay?” At least I think these are the quotes. Hundreds of Kansans are a bit offended that this interchange is dropped in this commercial with no apparent connection to anything. Have you ever been in a group and someone insults a friend of yours? You probably feel a little offended. You may even speak up for your friend. Is the intent to be funny? Insulting?Hundreds of Kansans have the same reaction to the McDonald’s commercial because Paraguay and Kansas have been friends for over 40 years through Kansas-Paraguay Partners that is part of the Partners of the Americas program. Over the years Kansans have been hosted by the warm Paraguayan people.Kansans have shared their expertise with Paraguayans including helping upgrade the zoo in the capital city, starting a school for children with disabilities and sharing agricultural practices.Kansans have donated emergency medical equipment to help volunteer Paraguayan firefighters.Kansans have worked to promote democracy in a country that had the misfortune to be dominated by dictatorships for far too many years.Space does not allow listing all of the work that Kansans have accomplished in Paraguay or visa-versa.The friendship between Paraguay and Kansas has not been one-sided.Paraguayans have visited firefighters, cattle producers, small business development centers in Kansas.Paraguayans have taught in Kansas including Spanish and Guarini, the two official languages of the country. Many Paraguayans attend and have graduated from Kansas universities and colleges. One estimate is that 700 Paraguayans have studied in Kansas. Some Paraguayan students have expressed surprise at the McDonald’s commercials. What do they mean? Is my country the butt of a joke?The 40+ year friendship between Kansas and Paraguay is no joke and is one way to reduce foreign policy to people and families. It is a rare opportunity to get personally involved in our countries foreign policy. Maybe the commercial uses Paraguay because it is one country where there is no McDonald’s. If you want to get a glimpse of a pre McDonald’s world, visit Paraguay.

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Stevia, Sunflowers and Paraguay

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/07/IMG_0861.JPGStevia is about to be allowed to be used as a food additive in the United States says a recent article in the LJ World. What is Stevia?Stevia is a plant with leaves that taste like sugar and the extract is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Some research indicates that it shows promise in treating high blood pressure and obesity. It was also banned as a food additive in the US from 1991 until now. We are still waiting final food additive approval. The banning of it is another story that is clouded in mystery. I suspect the sugar growers had something to do with it. Although it was available as a supplement for a long time. Try the Merc.Stevia is also a member of the sunflower family. I am not a botanist but that is what I am told. So here is an interesting connection. Kansas, the sunflower state, is partnered with Paraguay through the Partners of the Americas program. In the case of stevia Paraguay has been way ahead of the US for hundreds of years. The Guarani who predated the Europeans in Paraguay have long used Ka’ ahe’ê. That is ‘sweet herb’ in the Guarani language. Stevia is our word.The Guarani understood the health benefits of mate for a long time. They used it for heartburn and blood problems and to sweeten their yerba mate. Mate is another story. The consumption of mate is a treasured social ritual in Paraguay and other parts of South America. Yerba Mate is a tea that is sold in bulk like the package in the picture. It is placed in the cup along with stevia leaves (if you like your mate sweetened) and either cold or hot water is poured in (hot in the winter and cold in the summer). The result is sipped through the metal straw called a bombilla. Water for the mate is carried in a thermos bottle. This is a rather simplified description. There are lots of different ways of preparing mate.Paraguay is a hot in the summer, like Kansas, so drinking a lot of mate is a good way to stay hydrated. Paraguayan winters are relatively mild, unlike Kansas, so few houses have central heat. Mate with hot water is a great way to start a cold morning. There is also an entire social ritual for drinking mate in a group with hours of conversation, guitar playing and singing. It is a wonderful way to socialize. Kind of like coffee used to be in this country except local coffee houses have become solitary places with everyone plugged into a computer, media player or phone.If you see a KU student with a large thermos over their shoulder, it is probably a Paraguayan. Stop and say hi and welcome them to their partner state. They might invite you to share a mate.

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Reasons to Celebrate in Paraguay and Kansas

Today Paraguayans are celebrating the end of the 61 year rule of the Colorado Party. It has the distinction of having been the longest ruling party in the world. Not a good thing in this case.Paraguay has been working on developing democracy since the removal of Alfredo Stroessner the dictator who ruled from 1954 until he was deposed in 1989. In 1993 Paraguay had their first free election since 1928. However, this year's election was the first time a non-Colorado candidate won. It is a hallmark of democracy when ruling parties change through free and fair elections. Fernando Lugo is the new president and is more personality than party. He was a Catholic Bishop who resigned his clerical position to run for president. The Vatican still does not recognize his resignation. He is considered a leftist but what that means is yet to be determined.What does this have to do with Lawrence? Well in addition to being interested in the peaceful spread of democracy, the Lawrence League of Women Voters had a small role in the development of democracy in Paraguay. After the 1993 election several Paraguayan women's groups were eager to have contact with the League of Women Voters in the U.S. The women presented their proposal to the Kansas-Paraguay Partners and Partners of the Americas. They were put in contact with the League of Women Voters of Kansas and Mary Miller a member of both Kansas-Paraguay Partners and the Lawrence League was the lead Kansas person in this project.In 1995 Mary traveled to Paraguay to become acquainted with the women's groups and their needs. In 1997 five Paraguayan women came to Kansas to spend two weeks hosted by five of the local Leagues. Their purpose was to see government in action and the participation of women in governmental and non-governmental organizations. Their project on returning home was to carry out a series of surveys in five public markets in and around Asuncion to determine and prioritize the concerns of thousands of women who work in the markets. Forums were held and the market women gained confidence in their ability to voice their grievances. The final forum was held before the municipal elections of November 1996, and was attended by a League member from Kansas. The candidates for mayor were invited and heard the women's complaints. The candidates then signed contracts to better conditions. Now that is democracy at work.By the way it is also the birthday of Asunción the capital of Paraguay. Asunción was founded on August 15, 1541 and is one of the oldest cities in the Americas.

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International Flan Exchange

Flan is an elegant dessert that can be deceptively simple to prepare. Edith and I made flan last Friday evening when the Paraguayan Ambassador to the United States was in town. Ambassador Spalding was here for the annual meeting of the Kansas Paraguay Partners. This organization has promoted a variety of exchanges between Paraguay and Kansas for 40 years. This year's annual meeting coincided with an exquisite exhibition of Paraguayan art at the Mulvane Museum of Washburn University in Topeka. If you like art, drive over and take a look.Since our recipe was greatly modified through a Kansas Paraguay exchange, I began to reflect on its origins. According to Larousse Gastronomique the self proclaimed world's greatest culinary encyclopedia flan has been around almost forever. The Latin poet Fortunatus (530 690 AD) mentioned flan and recipes exist that go back to medieval cooking. The word flan comes from the Latin "flado" which is a flat cake. Thus it exists in forms that we would call a tart to the creamy rich custard dessert that many of us recognize. I have even seen recipes for asparagus or spinach flan. Most of us would call these quiche. Flan is often thought of as a difficult dish to make that has way too much fat from many eggs and cream or whole milk. While it can fit this description, this is where our Kansas Paraguay recipe exchange comes in. Our recipe started as a difficult to make overly fat confection. Then we had the pleasure of meeting Estelle Carrizosa from Asuncion Paraguay who shared her flan and recipe. Here is her recipe with our modifications.Preheat oven to 350 degrees (changed from Celsius)Melt ¼ cup sugar in the dish that you will use to bake the flan.Put 6 eggs into a mixing bowl and beat (we use 3).Empty 1 can sweetened condensed milk into a mixing bowl (you can use the fat free variety).Fill the can with whole milk and add to the bowl (we changed this to skim milk).Add a little vanilla or even better try a liqueur such as Cointreau or Kahlua. Beat the mixture and pour into the baking dish that has the melted sugar.Bake in a water bath for 1 hour or until set.Let cool and turn out into a serving plate.Unbelievably this recipe loses none of its texture or richness if you use skim milk instead of whole or reduce the eggs. When we started reducing the number of eggs it maintained its custard texture and rich taste all the way down to 2 eggs. We settled on 3. You can also go one step further by using fat free sweetened condensed milk. The dessert flan seems to be a part of the culinary heritage of many countries around the world. What has been your international experience with flan?

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Building International Understanding

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Feb/08/IMG_0627.jpgThat is noted sculptor Elden Tefft on the left. Eldon is retired from teaching sculpture at the University of Kansas and maybe best known locally as the creator of the statue of Moses in front of Smith Hall. His representation of former KU Chancellor Franklin Murphy is in a sculpture garden at UCLA along with works of such notables as Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth and Henri Matisse.That is internationally known sculptor Gustavo Beckelmann on the right. Gustavo is from Paraguay and is in Kansas this month as part of the "Visual Encounters with Paraguay" exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka. Elden Tefft taught sculpture in Paraguay in 1989. His trip was part of a cultural exchange through Kansas Paraguay Partners and supported, in part, by Partners of the Americas.Gustavo says that in 1989 he was a struggling artist who was trying to create bronze sculptures. His methods were primitive and results were disappointing. He attended Professor Tefft's class in Asuncion Paraguay and his artistic life was transformed. Elden taught the "lost wax" method of working with bronze which is an ancient technique still used today.Following these classes Jerry Miller, one of Elden's collaborators, helped Gustavo build the type of kiln needed to work successfully with bronze. Gustavo has gone on to create sculptures that have won international prizes. He has also passed on what he has learned by helping sculptors in other countries build kilns like the one that Jerry helped him construct. This is one of hundreds of stories of international collaborations in diverse fields including agriculture, health and education that build understanding across cultures. In this case a young struggling artist in a developing country learned the skills needed to build a successful career. For his part Elden made lifelong friends in a little known South American country.I heard yesterday that the US now spends more on defense than all of the other countries in the world combined. Perhaps if we spent more on building relationships like that of Elden and Gustavo we would need to spend less on defense.

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Paraguayan Art?

Paraguay is a little known (in the USA) South American country snuggled between Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia with a rich artistic tradition that is celebrated in an exhibition of over 150 works currently at the Mulvane Art Museum of Washburn University in Topeka. The exhibit is open through April 13, 2008.This exhibit includes cultural artifacts of several indigenous peoples. Tools, water pots, sandals and spears are just a few examples. But Paraguay is not just a romantic tropical or sub-tropical country. A 2007 human rights calendar published by Museo de las Memorias is a graphic reminder of abuses of past dictators. This museum is part of an old police station that was used to torture political dissentients and is dedicated to keeping the memory of these events alive.There are several works by artists who struggled for artistic and political freedom during the repressive dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989). Carlos Colombino is one of these artists whose work of that era is highly symbolic. His El Supremo not only refers to Paraguay's first dictator but to a long line of repressive governments. This work shows a head emerging from or submerged in a landscape form constricted with rope.Other, less troubling aspects of Paraguayan culture are represented. Nanduti is delicate lace work that seeks to emulate and go beyond the intricate spider webs that inspired this craft. Nanduti is the word for spider web in Guarani which is the other official language of Paraguay with Spanish. Nanduti is represented in the exhibit with several handmade examples and by other works that pay homage to this tradition such as the contemporary works of Alfredo Miltos. In this exhibit, as in the artistic expression of most cultures, the traditional and modern are intertwined. A very interesting modern artist is Maria Gloria Echauri who takes pictures of peoples lower legs and feet and superimposes them on maps representing the movement of people to find work.The exhibit is titled, "Visual Encounters with Paraguay: Forty Years of Kansas Paraguay Partnership." Kansas and Paraguay have been partners since the 1960s as part of the Partners of the Americas program. Through the years there have been and continue to be a variety of exchanges including education, agriculture, medical, and arts. Much of the work in the exhibit is from the private collection of Kansans who have traveled to Paraguay as well as from the Spencer and Mulvane Museums of Art.Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen, Interim Director of the Mulvane Art Museum is the curator of this show has done a masterful job of presenting the breadth and depth of Paraguayan art. She states, in the exhibition catalog: "Visual arts, like music, are powerful communicators of a people's history, cultural identity and values across boundaries of language and political borders." Her presentation of the works is a testament to her ability to enable the art to communicate. The catalog is trilingual, English, Spanish and Guarani. That may be a first for Kansas and Paraguay.

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I made a fool of myself for international understanding.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Feb/01/RPCV.jpgThat is me in the homemade sandwich board. On Wednesday I walked Jayhawk Boulevard for 1.5 hours between the Kansas Union and Hock Auditoria trying to catch the noon hour rush from class to lunch. I was looking for a few good volunteers. Being many years older than most people on the street I got lots of strange looks.That RPCV on the button stands for Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. I was one and like so many others it was a fantastic and life changing experience. I served in Paraguay which is also part of another U.S foreign policy program called Partners of the Americas. Like Peace Corps, Partners was another President Kennedy initiative. Paraguay is partnered with Kansas and that partnership is still going strong after 40 years but more on that at another time.The event I was trying to get students interested in was Thursday evening and included recruiting for Americorps and Teach for America as well as the Peace Corps. There may have been as many RPCVs there as recruits. That is because it is such a powerful experience that most RPCVs want to share their experiences and encourage others to do the same. One recently returned volunteer served in Turkmenistan and as a result came back to seek an advanced degree related to Central Asia. One volunteer in my group is now working in a not for profit housing organization on the south side of Chicago using his Spanish learned during his service in Paraguay. These are just two of thousands of stories.I talked with several young people who were interested and showed with their questions that they were apprehensive. Twenty seven months away from friends and family in some country with another language is quite a commitment. Yet every RCPV related wonderful stories of learning a language, adapting to another culture and making friends that became family away from home. One person who served in the 1970s told of continuing to visit 'family' in Central America more than 30 years later.Programs like the Peace Corps and Partners of the Americas may be the most effective United States foreign policy programs. Not that volunteers have a large impact on another country but because people in one country come to understand those in another. I was once told that Senator Fulbright said that he favored any foreign policy program that reduced nations to people. I agree.

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